Peace of mind: Family emergency plan, safety items, can be gifts

December 2015 Posted in Other

By Kristine Thomas

With families gathering for the holidays, now is a good time to talk about a family emergency plan. And maybe create emergency care gift packages.

Silverton Health Safety and Environment of Care Officer Justin Huff said he and his wife are planning to have the theme of emergency items like water filtration kits, flashlights and first aid kits for a family “white elephant” gift exchange.

“This makes it a fun way to talk about preparing for an emergency,” Huff said. “People shouldn’t be afraid to talk about this. It’s a public health issue.”

Rather than being fearful of what could happen, Huff wants people to think about the ways they can be prepared and stay safe. He encourages people to think of preparing for a natural or man-made emergency as a public health issue.

“We have smoke detectors in our homes to warm us if there is a fire. We wear seat belts to protect us in case of a car crash. We shouldn’t be scared to talk about being prepared for an emergency,” Huff said.

Examining emergency preparedness as a public health issue takes away some of the fear and lets people feel more able to deal with what may happen, he said.

“The more independent they can be and the more prepared they are, the better it will be for their health,” Huff said.

It also helps mitigate public health issues such as getting sick from drinking contaminated water or injured days after the earthquake or other disaster, he added.

“People need to be able to take care of themselves and their families for at least four days after the emergency,” he said. “That means having enough water, food, fuel and first aid supplies.”

Huff said the Silverton Hospital staff is prepared to handle any kind of emergency, whether it’s an earthquake, hazardous material spill or incident caused by humans, such as an active shooter. The hospital has annual drills and follows regulations outlined by state and federal agencies.

Phil Balogh, who is Silverton Health’s director of support services, said the hospital’s emergency preparedness includes backup generators and other emergency equipment and supplies.

Both Balogh and Huff said the most important step is to create a family emergency plan.

People need to know what they will do in case of a disaster: where they will meet; who is the contact person; who will watch the children if the parents are at work; who will take care of pets if the owner can’t make it home.

“We tell our employees if an emergency happens there is a good chance they will not be able to return to their home and they will be at the hospital for a few days taking care of patients,” Karen Brady, hospital chief operating officer, said.

In Oregon, Huff added, people are outdoor minded. They enjoy camping, hunting, hiking and skiing. When people do things outdoors, they prepare with the right equipment.

“We need to relate preparing for a natural disaster to that,” he said.

Huff said the hospital staff has conducted drills with the city of Silverton, Marion County, regional governments, local fire departments and CERT.

“We are in constant communication and are ready to collaborate if something happens,” Huff said. “This is not a Silverton issue. This is a community issue. It’s about working together to address the needs of our community.”

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